Twisted Morals and Martinis with a Twist

The Norman Rea Gallery showcases its most flamboyant exhibition yet: The Grande Finale: Art of the Extravaganza.

(Image: Josh Haining)

Think 1970s nightlife in New York, only with a few more masquerade masks and margaritas. In the Norman Rea Gallery, the social elites are coming out to party for the final exhibition of the 2023/24 programme. 

For depictions of twisted morals and martinis with a twist, this exhibition isn’t one to miss. 

Inspired by exhibitions like the V&A’s DIVA and Tate Liverpool’s GLAM! The Performance of Style, this exhibition celebrated all things opulent and bedazzled. 

(Image: Josh Haining)

The Grand Finale exhibition transported us into the party scene of the uber elites, giving attendees an exclusive invite to their extravagant event. Through the different artworks, we follow their reckless drinking and wild lifestyles through to the early hours of the morning.  

This exhibition conveyed candidly the buzz of nightlife and drunken movement. Blurred photographs resembled post-red carpet paparazzi photos and the use of smudged neon colours made me feel like I was attending the party in real life, observing it through alcohol-goggles.

In particular, Valérie Pirlot’s oil painting, The finale – Giffords Circus, records a fleeting moment from the night. Depicting a sea of undistinguishable faces and moving limbs, the artwork meshes all the party-goers together, perhaps representing a sense of isolation amidst the crowd. 

Co-director and co-curator Eleanor Getting explained, “we wanted to go out with a big bang so we wanted to do something that was all about being over the top and extravagant”. She continues, “we wanted to look at the theatricality of art and how artists present a sense of drama”. 

(Image: Josh Haining)

By including masquerade masks in many of the artworks, this exhibition expressed the element of mystery and selectivity that so often surrounds these high-profile social events. In particular, Zoe Ley and Rose de Villeneuve’s screenprints Live, Laugh, Gin emphasise the fact that celebrities’ frivolous lifestyles are so estranged from our own. 

The complementary sparkling pink gin was a nice extra touch, as was the live band music which, although a little loud at times, helped to emulate an intimate bar scene. The Grande Finale exhibition transformed Norman Rea into a busy street, a nightclub and eventually a street gutter. 

This exhibition runs until Friday 23rd March. 

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